Women Making History: Judge Elsijane Trimble Roy

Elsijane Trimble Roy was born the daughter of a judge. At an early age, she knew she wanted to be an attorney.  She would eventually become not only the third female to graduate from the University of Arkansas Law School, but the first female circuit court judge in Arkansas, the first female on the Arkansas Supreme Court, and the first female Federal judge from Arkansas.

She was also the first woman in the United States to follow her father as federal judge.  She presided in the same courtroom where her father had served for 20 years. She retired in 1999 after 21 years on the federal bench.

Judge Roy has received many awards and honors including being selected Woman of the Year by the Business and Professional Woman’s Club in 1969, Arkansas Democrat Woman of the Year in 1976, an honor that her mother also received, and Outstanding Appellate Judge of 1976-1977 by the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association.

While she was on the Arkansas Supreme Court (to which she had been appointed by Governor David Pryor), she administered the oath of office to Anne Bartley to lead the Department of Arkansas Natural and Cultural Heritage.  Ms. Bartley became the first woman in an Arkansas Governor’s cabinet.  In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the federal bench to succeed Judge Oren Harris.

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A Conversation With Arkansas Supreme Court Justices tonight at CALS

Image result for arkansas supreme courtThe Arkansas Supreme Court, in partnership with the Central Arkansas Library System, invites the public to an event that focuses on connecting Arkansans with their state Supreme Court.

The free lecture and Q-and-A is on Thursday, March 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Main Library in the River Market District in downtown Little Rock. The Main Library is located at 100 Rock Street, Little Rock, 72201.

The event is part of National Judicial Outreach Week, an initiative that aims to increase interaction between the judiciary and the public it serves. Arkansas Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dan Kemp and Justices Rhonda Wood and Robin Wynne will speak and then take questions from the public.

There will also be a presentation by the Executive Director of the Arkansas Access To Justice Commission, Amy Johnson. The Commission aims to provide equal access to justice for all Arkansans.

Please contact Karen Steward at karen.steward@arcourts.gov or 501-410-1935 with any questions. While an RSVP is not required, it is much appreciated for planning purposes.

Presentations include:

Chief Justice John Dan Kemp: Goals For the Arkansas Judiciary
Justice Robin Wynne: The Tiers of the Arkansas Court System
Justice Rhonda Wood: Ensuring Fair and Impartial Courts
Amy Johnson, Executive Director of Arkansas Access To Justice: Addressing the Unmet Legal Needs of Arkansans

Little Rock Look Back: SCOTUS decision in BATES v LITTLE ROCK case

On February 23, 1960, the U. S. Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of Daisy BATES et al., Petitioners, v. CITY OF LITTLE ROCK et al.  This case had been argued before the Court in November 1959.

Daisy Bates of Little Rock and Birdie Williams of North Little Rock were the petitioners.  Each had been convicted of violating an identical ordinance of an Arkansas municipality by refusing a demand to furnish city officials with a list of the names of the members of a local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The question for decision was whether these convictions can stand under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Little Rock ordinance (10,638) was passed on October 14, 1957. It charged that certain non-profits were actually functioning as businesses and using non-profit status to skirt the law. Therefore it required the non-profits to disclose their members and sources of dues.  North Little Rock passed an identical ordinance.

(Mayor Woodrow Mann was not present at the meeting of the LR Council when the ordinance was passed. But he signed all of the resolutions and ordinances approved that night.  Ordinance 10,638 was the only legislation that night which had also been signed by Acting Mayor Franklin Loy.  Mayor Mann crossed through Loy’s name and signed his own.)

Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Williams as keepers of the records for their respective chapters of the NAACP refused to comply with the law.  While they provided most of the information requested, they contended they did not have to provide the membership rosters and dues paid.

After refusing upon further demand to submit the names of the members of her organization, each was tried, convicted, and fined for a violation of the ordinance of her respective municipality. At the Bates trial evidence was offered to show that many former members of the local organization had declined to renew their membership because of the existence of the ordinance in question. Similar evidence was received in the Williams trial, as well as evidence that those who had been publicly identified in the community as members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People had been subjected to harassment and threats of bodily harm.

Each woman was convicted in the court of Pulaski Circuit Court, First Division, William J. KirbyJudge. They were fined $25 a person.  On appeal the cases were consolidated in the Supreme Court of Arkansas in 1958. The convictions were upheld by five justices with George Rose Smith and J. Seaborn Holt dissenting.

Mrs. Bates and Mrs. Williams then appealed to the U. S. Supreme Court.  The pair’s legal team included Robert L. Carter and George Howard, Jr. (who would later become a federal judge).  Little Rock City Attorney Joseph Kemp argued the case for the City.  The arguments before the U. S. Supreme Court were heard on November 18, 1959.

The SCOTUS decision was written by Associate Justice Potter Stewart.  He was joined by Chief Justice Earl Warren and Associate Justices Felix Frankfurter, Tom C. Clark, John M. Harlan II, William J. Brennan and Charles E. Whittaker.  Justices Hugo Black and William O. Douglas wrote a concurring opinion.

The U. S. Supreme Court reversed the lower courts.

In sum, there is a complete failure in this record to show (1) that the organizations were engaged in any occupation for which a license would be required, even if the occupation were conducted for a profit; (2) that the cities have ever asserted a claim against the organizations for payment of an occupation license tax; (3) that the organizations have ever asserted exemption from a tax imposed by the municipalities, either because of their alleged nonprofit character or for any other reason.

We conclude that the municipalities have failed to demonstrate a controlling justification for the deterrence of free association which compulsory disclosure of the membership lists would cause. The petitioners cannot be punished for refusing to produce information which the municipalities could not constitutionally require. The judgments cannot stand.

In their concurring opinion, Justices Black and Douglas wrote that they felt the facts not only violated freedom of speech and assembly from the First Amendment, but also aspects of the Fourteenth Amendment. They wrote that the freedom of assembly (including freedom of association) was a principle to be applied “to all people under our Constitution irrespective of their race, color, politics, or religion. That is, for us, the essence of the present opinion of the Court.”

Neither the Gazette or Democrat carried any reaction from City leaders. There was a City Board meeting the evening of the decision. If it was mentioned, the minutes from the meeting do not reflect it.

Arkansas Attorney General Bruce Bennett, on the other hand, was very vocal in his outrage. The city laws were known as Bennett Laws because they had been drafted by him as ways to intimidate African Americans and others he viewed as agitators.

In 1960 Bennett was challenging Governor Orval Faubus for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination.  In reaction to the to the Supreme Court he vowed that, if elected Governor, he would “de-integrate” (a term he proudly took credit for coining) the state.

For his part, and not to be outdone by the AG, Faubus fretted that the Court’s decision meant that Communists would be able to give money to the NAACP.

Little Rock Look Back: Movie Ball sends LR Film Fans into Frenzy

Autograph seekers crowd around the actors at the Movie Ball (photo from Arkansas Gazette)

As final preparations were being made for the opening of the Joseph Taylor Robinson Municipal Auditorium in early 1940, a glamorous evening took place in Robinson’s lower level convention hall on February 1.

In conjunction with a meeting of film executives and movie theatre owners sponsored by Robb and Rowley Theaters (which later became the United Artists theatre chain), several Hollywood actors were in Little Rock and headlined a Movie Ball. While in Little Rock, Maureen O’Hara, Phyllis Brooks, Arleen Whelan, Tim Holt and Gene Autry had also made a variety of public appearances.

Mr. Autrey had to miss the ball because he had to return to Hollywood early to attend to business matters. Actress Ilona Massey had also been scheduled to attend the events but was unable due to illness.

The quartet who did appear at the Movie Ball caused quite a scene. Upon their entrance, so many of the attendees crowded around for autographs that the evening’s grand march could not take place (a newspaper headline in the Democrat innocently used the word “orgy” to describe the crowd). After two attempts, Little Rock Mayor J. V. Satterfield (who was escorting Miss O’Hara) and the other members of the Little Rock host delegation led the Hollywood foursome to their reserved table. For quite a while that evening, the table was besieged by autograph seekers.

Though it is unknown as to whether he sought an autograph, photos from the evening showed a very satisfied Mayor Satterfield with Miss O’Hara on his arm. Satterfield family lore joked that Mrs. Satterfield (who had stayed home that night to tend to a sick son) was not a fan of Miss O’Hara’s films after that evening.

The Movie Ball showed Little Rock citizens the value of Robinson Auditorium even before it had been officially dedicated. The film industry meetings had taken place at the Albert Pike Hotel which did not feature a ballroom large enough to host the ball. Without the auditorium’s availability for the gala, organizers might not have chosen Little Rock for the meeting.

With the auditorium’s convention hall not attached to any hotel, it opened up the chance for Little Rock to host more events. This had been one of the key arguments for an auditorium since Mayor W. E. Lenon’s first proposal back in 1904. Having a glamorous event this early in the auditorium’s life validated that contention. After having endured the challenges to open the building, it was a nice lagniappe for the auditorium’s proponents who were present.

The actor Tim Holt would again be connected to Little Rock. In September 1951, he tried to obtain a divorce in Arkansas and stated that he had been a resident of the state for at least six weeks. He also had someone else testify to that fact. In October 1951, the divorce was granted. Later Mr. Holt was charged with perjury and fined $200 for falsely representing his length of residence in Arkansas. Judicial sanctions for his legal team, which included a State Senator, were eventually reviewed by the Arkansas Supreme Court.

Little Rock Look Back: Elijah A. More

On January 20, 1799, Elijah A. More was born in Kentucky.  By the early 1830s, he was residing in Hempstead County and practicing law. Because of the court system being based in Little Rock, he spent a great deal of time in Pulaski County.

By January 1834, he had obviously established a permanent residence in Little Rock, because he was chosen as the third mayor.  He served from January 1834 until January 1835.

According to records, he apparently continued to alternate between residing near what is now Hope and living in Little Rock.  In 1839, his wife Caroline Owens More died and was buried in Little Rock. Though not originally buried at Mount Holly (it did not open until 1843), she is now buried there.

In 1840, More was the subject of a court case before the Arkansas Supreme Court resulting from actions he had taken as an executor of an estate and subsequently as Pulaski County Probate Judge.

By 1864, More resided in Missouri. There is a record of him swearing a loyalty oath to the Governor of Missouri in that year (presumably in response to actions associated with the Civil War).

He died on April 15, 1878 and is buried in Columbia Cemetery in Columbia, Missouri.

This afternoon – Arkansas Cinema Society presents free sneak preview of RGB biopic ON THE BASIS OF SEX

Before she was a Supreme Court Justice (and an action figure), Ruth Bader Ginsburg made history as a crusading young attorney.  This chapter of her life is the subject of the new movie ON THE BASIS OF SEX.

This afternoon (Dec 29) at 5pm, the Arkansas Cinema Society presents a free sneak preview of the film.  Doors to the Ron Robinson Theater open at 4:30.

Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer play gender-rights crusader Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her husband Marty in this early-career courtroom drama. Others in the cast include Justin Theroux, Jack Reynor, Cailee Spaeny, Sam Waterston, and Kathy Bates.  The movie was directed by Mimi Leder from a screenplay by Daniel Stiepleman.

Following the screening, there will be a panel discussion. It will feature UA Little Rock Bowen School of Law Dean Theresa Beiner; Professor Beth Levi, JD, of the Bowen School; Justice Annabelle Imber Tuck, retired member of the Arkansas Supreme Court; Judge Ellen Brantley, retired Pulaski County Circuit Court judge; and attorney Tijuana Byrd, who is president of the Women’s Foundation of Arkansas board.  The panel will be moderated by Alison Williams, who serves as Chief of Staff to Governor Asa Hutchinson and is a member of the Arkansas Cinema Society Board.

Little Rock Look Back: Mayoral Primary of 1944

Following his second stint as mayor, Charles Moyer decided to not seek a fifth term leading Little Rock.  It set the stage for the December 1944 Democratic primary.  Alderman Sam Wassell and former Alderman Dan Sprick faced off in a particularly nasty race.  As World War II was drawing to a close, there were charges leveled which questioned patriotism. With both men having service on the Little Rock City Council, there were also plenty of past votes on both sides which could become fodder for campaigns.

The election was on December 5, 1944. Sprick received 3,923 votes and Wassell 3,805. A few days later, Wassell filed suit claiming that there were people who voted who were not on the poll tax rolls and another group of voters who did not live in the ward in which they voted. Sprick countersued making the same charges against Wassell.

The case was heard in Pulaski County Circuit Court in February 1945.  It eventually ended up at the Arkansas Supreme Court, which remanded it back to the lower court. On March 26, 1945, Wassell dropped his case. This was only eight (8) days before the municipal general election.

Two years later, Wassell would challenge Sprick in the primary and be triumphant. Wassell would serve from 1947 until 1951.  Sprick would later return to politics and serve a decade in the Arkansas State Senate.